Thrifting can be frustrating and disappointing. First time thrifters may be discouraged by their lack of good finds. So, we’ve put together some tips on improving your thrifting experience.
I find it most helpful to do some research before I go thrifting. First, you’ll want to find out what thrift stores are in your area. You’ll likely have a Value Village, Talize, Goodwill or Salvation Army in your area. These are the biggest and most common thrift store chains in Ontario. You’ll likely also have some independent and community organized thrift stores, such as the MCC (Mennonite Central Committee), as well as vintage and consignment stores as well, so be sure to add these to your list.
Second, you’ll want to create a list of brands to keep an eye out for, unless you’re not too picky, but I like knowing the quality and worth of items I’m buying. So get to know some brands.
Third, know your size. Thrifting can be much quicker if you know your sizing. Make sure you know your shoe size, pant size, and shirt size – and no, I’m not only talking about letter-sizing. I’m also talking about actual measurements. Still, you’ll want to try everything on to make sure it fits properly.
Don’t expect a mall-like shopping experience. Thrift stores can be disorganized, smelly and downright gross. Be ready to sort through a lot of crap and meet some interesting people. If you’re looking for a shopping experience that is a bit more settling then thrifting, try checking out some local vintage or consignment stores instead. These stores offer more pleasant shopping experiences and better clothes, and as such prices will typically be a bit higher.
Go through as much as you can. Try not to skip sections and really sort through everything. Don’t rely on items to be in the correct spots. Typically the best finds are those that are least expected. If you go thrifting solely to find one specific item, you’ll likely be disappointed.
Make sure you try everything on before you buy it. If not, at least look at it carefully. A lot of items are donated because they’re damaged or stained. So don’t get caught surprised when you go home and realize the Ralph Lauren sweater you purchased has a big hole in it. That being said, don’t discard it just because of some minor issues. Missing buttons and small holes can be easily fixed, learn some basic sewing skills to aid your thrifting experience. Pants, shirts and jackets can also be tailored to fit you better if they’re not quite right – but expect to pay anywhere from $10 to $60, so make sure it’s worth it. Additionally, good shoes can be resoled and polished to look new again. So don’t overlook those beaten pair of Allen Edmonds just because they’re a bit scuffed up. A cheap shoe care kit can help you out.
Thrifting isn’t a once in a while kind of gig. If you want to find the best things, make sure you go often. There’s always something new to be found. If you work close to a thrift store, try going once a week on your lunch break. Some thrift stores will put more items out on certain days, so try and figure out which days are best to go. At Unit 5 we try to put out dozens of new and quality items out every day.
After all is said and done, remember not only are you saving money for yourself, but you are also benefitting the environment and charitable organizations. Thrifting is eco-friendly and the majority of thrift stores donate a portion of your money to support good causes. Consignment and vintage stores are just as eco-friendly and many, like ours, help students and the like sell their clothes and make money back.